A recent Gallup poll has claimed that, for the first time, Democrats have a more favorable view of socialism than they do about capitalism by about a ten point gap (57 vs 47%). I’m sure that this was met with nothing but sober-minded and reasonable reactions from the right and left alike.
One obvious question about this finding is why? After all, this gap only emerged over the last two years. Democrats previously viewed capitalism and socialism on roughly equal grounds if not favoring the former slightly.
One prominent hypothesis is that Republicans are primarily responsible for this pivot. Specifically, the avidity of their pundits to slap the “socialism” label on everything from increased firearm regulation to gay marriage. As a result, considering that those on the left tend to see those things more favorably, many social scientists appear to be prescribing to the belief that Democrats are saying “if that’s what socialism is, then I like it.”
But if one looks at the data, that’s not actually what appears to be happening. Support for socialism may have ramped up over the last couple of years (probably thanks to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign), but not to the extent that support has eroded for capitalism. The hypothesis, while solid and possessing some good leverage on why Democrats are more comfortable endorsing self-proclaimed socialists for political office, suggests an opposite trend. A trend where socialism should be trending up as opposed to capitalism trending down. A trend that Gallup’s data does not support.
For their part, Gallup would probably agree with this analysis. Indeed, they even go as far as to offer a catalyst for this dramatic change: President Trump. Writing in their story:
“It’s possible that the drop in Democrats’ positive views of capitalism is related to Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump is an enthusiastic capitalist, and his administration’s efforts to roll back regulations on business and industry, as well as the tax cut law that is advantageous to businesses and corporations, may have caused Democrats to view the entire capitalist enterprise with less positive eyes.”
For those interested, I’ve written a longer analysis about why I believe we’ve witnessed such a precipitous drop here. (Hint: Their views of what constitutes capitalism might be different [read: more critical] than how conservatives define the term). But don’t be seduced by the headlines into thinking that this enthusiasm gap exhibits an exuberant leftward sprint for the Democrats. They’re staying relatively put, albeit looking ever-more cynically at the economic right.